Action Research: Enhancing Professional Practice and Knowledge in Pre- and In-service Language Teacher Education

Organisers: Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher (University of Vienna, Austria) & Birgit Schädlich (Georg August University Göttingen, Germany)

Invited Speakers: Marjan Asgari (Free Open University Bozen-Bolzano), Svenja Dehler (University of Göttingen, Germany), Angela Gallagher-Brett (Queen Mary University of London, UK), Marta Garcìa (University of Göttingen, Germany), Franz Rauch (University of Klagenfurt, Austria), Michael Schart (University of Jena, Germany), Luis Sebastian Villacañas de Castro (Universitat de València, Spain), Renata Zanin (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy)


This symposium will focus on the concept of action research and its potential for language teacher learning and development in settings of pre- and in-service language teacher education. At the heart of becoming and being an expert language teacher is the continuous development of expert knowledge, pedagogical skills and professional practice. Involvement in action research projects can help student and expert teachers develop their professional knowledge base in direct relation to their field of practice as well as initiate and promote reflection on their teaching practice.

Despite its well-documented potential for teacher learning and development, action research as a methodological tool of teacher education poses challenges for teacher educators and for the actual action researchers as its targeted outcomes differ from conventional academic research. The primary aim of educational action research is not to generate scientific knowledge but to find solutions to practical problems situated within the researcher’s field of practice.  As an approach to teacher education, action research seeks to introduce (student) teachers to research-based thinking and to facilitate systematic inquiry into, critical evaluation of and reflection on their teaching practice. Ultimately, involvement in action research aims at making a research- and inquiry-based habitus an integral part of professional teacher identity.

In our symposium, we will discuss the concept of action research as well as its challenges and potentials for pre- and in-service language teacher learning and development with an international group of language teacher educators who work in the contexts of German, French, English and Spanish as a foreign or second language.

The presenters in this symposium will explore individual and collaborative action research projects in language teaching settings ranging from pre-school to tertiary level foreign and second language classes including a project in a bilingual learning environment. The presented projects range from short- to long-term interventions introducing pre-service student teachers and qualified in-service teachers alike to the concepts of action research and its actual implementation in their language teaching contexts. The research foci of the presented projects are manifold and range from the development of feedback strategies, the increase in linguistic input and output, the teaching of pronunciation, the introduction of a genre-based approach to writing to multimodal and multiliterate orientations to language teaching.

In addition to exploring concrete action research projects, the presenting participants in our symposium will report on research carried out in order to explore the attitudes of student teachers to research in general and to action research in particular.  Other presentations will deal with the challenge of educational managerialism, which reduces teacher education to ‘mere training’ in schools without any university-based education, and how under these circumstances few university-based teacher education programmes strive for the inclusion of a reflective and inquiry-based approach to teacher learning. Finally, interested teacher educators will be informed about a well -established national in-service programme for subject teachers focusing on action research as well as various international action research networks, their aims, services and target groups.